Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Fab Five: Week X

Well, we enjoyed just our second winning week, posting a solid 6-4 mark. We'll need more like that to have any hope of finishing with an even record. The overall mark is now 41-48-1. Home teams in bold.

5 Dogs I Like
Last Week: 3-2
Overall: 19-26

West Virginia +13.5 TCU
2013 has been a disappointing season for both these squads. In fact, the loser of this game is likely to miss out on a bowl appearance for the first time in a while (even the winner must tread lightly over the season's final month). TCU has not missed a bowl game since 2004, and West Virginia has appeared in every postseason since 2001. West Virginia has continued their putrid play on defense, but unlike years past, they do not have the offense to bail them out. The trio of quarterbacks used by the Mountaineers have thrown just nine touchdown passes on the season. Last year, Geno Smith threw 42. Still, I like the Mountaineers catching nearly two touchdowns against a TCU team that, while strong on defense, has issues of their own moving the football. West Virginia is probably a little under-valued, as they have not gotten a shot at the weak underbelly of the Big 12 (Kansas and Iowa State), while TCU has already had a chance to pad their statistical profile against Kansas. Look for West Virginia to keep this one within shouting distance in Fort Worth.

Mississippi State +12.5 South Carolina
Connor Shaw came off the bench and saved the Gamecocks bacon against Missouri last week. Down 17-0, Shaw brought the Gamecocks back and forced OT where they won thanks to a missed field goal. Now the Gamecocks return home where they are double-digit favorites over a solid Mississippi State team. The Gamecocks are just 1-2 Against the Spread (ATS) as double-digit home favorites this season, allowing both Vanderbilt and Kentucky to stay close at Williams Brice. The Gamecocks are probably a little over-valued after their win last week, while Mississippi State is a shade under-valued after their own home escape over Kentucky. I don't think the Bulldogs can do enough to win here, but they should keep it within two touchdowns.

Temple +13.5 Rutgers
The Temple Owls are in the throws of another losing season, but they may have found themselves a quarterback. Freshman PJ Walker has played the majority of snaps in the past four games and the Owls have scored 7, 20, 33, and 49 points in those games. Collectively, the team has averaged 6.50 yards per play in those four games after averaging just 4.78 yards per play in their first four. Of course, they are just 1-3 in the last four games because their defense is atrocious. The only Big East team even close to them in defensive ineptitude is...Rutgers. When they aren't playing IAA schools or Eastern Michigan, the Knights have allowed over 40 points per game! The Owls have not beaten Rutgers since 2002, and they may not be able to win in New Jersey, but they should stay within two touchdowns.

Hawaii +22.5 Utah State
The Warriors from Hawaii may be 0-7, but they are not your typical laughably bad winless team. Three of their losses have come by a touchdown or less and all seven of their losses have come to potential bowl teams (all seven teams won't make the postseason, but they should all win at least five games). Statistically, Hawaii rates out as a just a shade below average in the Mountain West. The Utah State Aggies are far from the powerful outfit they were when Chuckie Keeton was under center. Darell Garretson lacks the running ability Keeton displayed and the Aggies are much less explosive with him directing the offense. Utah State should win this game rather easily, but three touchdowns is too much to lay against a decent team like Hawaii.

Idaho +10.5 Texas State
The Bobcats from Texas State moved one step closer to bowl eligibility (in just their second season of IA football) with their home win over South Alabama. Now they take their show on the road against an Idaho team that has been sneaky tough at the Kibbie Dome. The Vandals have only played three homes games this season, but they have covered in two of them, including against Northern Illinois and an outright upset of Temple. Texas State does not have the offensive firepower to roll over Idaho away from San Marcos. Look for the Vandals to keep this one tight.

Five Faves I Like
Last Week: 3-2
Overall: 22-22-1

North Texas -4 Rice
Time to jump on that North Texas bandwagon, a locomotive that could very well be on course for the Conference USA Championship Game. Let's give head coach Dan McCarney his due. In the six seasons preceding his arrival, North Texas won 13 games. In two and a half seasons at the helm, McCarney has won 14. His charges are riding a three-game winning streak and are unbeaten under his watch as a home favorite (5-0 ATS as well). Rice is a quality team also in contention for the Conference USA flag, but with this spread under a touchdown, North Texas is the play here.

Arizona State -11.5 Washington State
I'll say this for Todd Graham, during his brief tenure in the desert, his teams handle their business against lesser opponents. Last season, the Sun Devils faced six IA opponents that would not qualify for bowl games. The Sun Devils went 5-1, won by an average of 23 points per game, and covered in the five games they were favored. In 2013, the Sun Devils have faced just one team unlikely to qualify for a bowl game. They trounced Colorado by 41 points as four touchdown favorites. This game is on the road, but an upset over Southern Cal notwithstanding, the Cougars have been only marginally better than they were last season. With the division title very much in play, the Sun Devils should roll here.

North Carolina -3 NC State
The North Carolina Tar Heels are likely the best 2-5 team in the country, and with a light closing slate, could end the year on a six or seven game winning streak (including a potential bowl game). The Tar Heels have lost at South Carolina, at Georgia Tech, at Virginia Tech, and home against Miami. Of those four, only the South Carolina game was non-competitive. Of course, they also lost at home to East Carolina in a game where they allowed 55 points, the most the Pirates have scored against a major conference team since they dropped 61 on Virginia in 1975. Meanwhile, NC State has one more win than the Heels, but their trio of victories have come against bad teams (Louisiana Tech and Central Michigan) or teams from IAA (Richmond). North Carolina has not beaten NC State in Raleigh since 2005. However, this could be the worst team NC State has fielded in that span. With the small spread, the Tar Heels are a solid play here.

Virginia Tech -4.5 Boston College
This appears to be your classic case of an extreme overreaction. Yes the Hokies lost at home to Duke last week, granting the Blue Devils their first road win over a ranked team since the dawn of time, but the Hokies were still quite impressive defensively. They limited Duke to just 198 yards of total offense and allowed less than four yards per play for the fifth time in eight games. This line should be about a touchdown, but the public has turned their collective backs on Virginia Tech. Take advantage and buy low on the Hokies this week.

Michigan State -5.5 Michigan
Under Mark Dantonio, the Spartans have beaten the Wolverines four of six times and covered each time as a betting favorite. The Spartans are also 4-0 in Big 10 play, so a win here would basically eliminate Michigan from title contention. The Michigan State offense has improved dramatically since their abysmal early showing, and the defense is as nasty as ever. Look for Michigan State to win this one by at least a touchdown.

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